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Round Table “Improvement of the Mechanism for Transboundary Water Resources Management in Central Asia”

A Round Table “Improvement of the Mechanism for Transboundary Water Resources Management in Central Asia” was held within the framework of the Central Asia International Scientific-Practical Conference “ICWC Towards the 4th World Water Forum: Local Actions for the Global Challenge” on 28 April 2005 in Almaty city.

The round table was organized by the ICWC and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The participants in the round table were: the ICWC members for Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan, authorized representatives of the ICWC members for the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Republic of Tajikistan, heads and senior staff of the ICWC executive bodies – BVO “Amudarya”, BVO “Syrdarya”, Secretariat, CMC, SIC, representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, heads of departments of national water and energy agencies in Central Asian Republics – altogether more than 30 people.

A. Kenshimov, deputy chairman of the Committee for Water Resources (CWR) at the Ministry of Agriculture (MA) of Kazakhstan, opened the round table. In his speech, he noted that the improvement of transboundary water resources (TWR) management in Central Asia is one of the priorities of the regional water policy, and expressed his hope for constructive exchange of view on that problem.

ADB senior specialist in agriculture B. Tumurdavaa familiarized the participants with the goals, objectives and course of the RETA (Regional Technical Assistance) project, as well as with the ADB’s vision and position on the implementation of the project.

Prof. V. Dukhovny, Director of SIC ICWC of Central Asia, acquainted the participants of the round table with the main components of the RETA project (component А – support in establishing and functioning of Chui-Talas joint rivers commission; component B – assistance in organizing discussions on regional water policy; and component C – capacity building for regional water organizations), common problems of TWR management in Central Asia, the current water situation in the region, and the vision of SIC ICWC on further implementation of the RETA project. In his speech, Prof. V. Dukhovny also suggested to include the Amudarya river basin in the project area, and revise and adjust among the parties the early prepared three agreements on principal matters of cooperation. That was grounded by the need for an integrated approach to solving the problem of improving the TWR management in the Aral Sea basin in view of the specific characters of the Amudarya and Syrdarya river basins, as well as strengthening the legal base for functioning of ICWC and its bodies.

K. Beyshekeyev, first deputy director general of the Water Department (WD) at the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Processing Industry (MAWRPI) of the Kyrgyz Republic, made a speech, which reflected the main results and directions of further development of the RETA project by component А – support in establishing and functioning of Chui-Talas joint rivers commission.

In his speech, Head of BVO “Amudarya” Y. Khudayberganov set out the issues of the organization and main problems of TWR management in the Amudarya river basin. A special attention was given to the need for providing equitable water distribution among the main water users in the basin, including the Aral Sea, as well as to the issues of equipping the head water intakes with SCADA facilities.

A. Sorokin, manager of regional water management division at SIC ICWC, familiarized the participants with the results of the calculation of flow loss and the analysis of return flow impact on Amudarya water quality, and demonstrated the possibility of reduction in average river water availability in case when a period of low water flow begins.

M. Khamidov, head of BVO “Syrdarya”, acquainted the participants with the water situation arising in the Syrdarya river basin in different water flow years. The participants focused their attention on TWR management problems related to the operation of the Toktogul hydro power station in energy regime that results in considerable damage for Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in winter-spring period, estimated as tens millions of US dollars annually (costs to carry out flood control measures, resettle population from the flooded area and so on). The speaker especially emphasized the low level of flow prediction and the need for quickly strengthening the cooperation of hydrometeorological services between each other and with ICWC. The report underlined that there is no alternative of joint management and close cooperation of all the Syrdarya basin states in the field of rational Syrdarya river water resources use.

Delivering his address, Y. Rysbekov, assistant director SIC ICWC, dwelled on the issues of strengthening international legal base for regional water relations, preparing inter-state agreements (ISA), stipulated by ASBP-2, in particular, on improving the 1998 Agreement, or preparing a new draft agreement on the Syrdarya river, draft agreements on establishing an International Water-Energy Consortium (IWEC). It was noted that in a number of cases, these projects do not meet the requirements of the authorities, which they are submitted to.

After presenting reports, the ICWC members gave brief information on key problems of TRW management in Central Asia. In their information, they focused on strengthening the regional cooperation and the need for reaching a consensus on transboundary water resources use.

In his speech, A. Kenshimov stated that any bilateral protocols on the Syrdarya river do not exclude the need for a transboundary agreement, which should determine in detail the order of interaction, responsibilities and rights of the parties in respect to following the regimes of releases from reservoirs, volumes and terms of environmental flows, order of Toktogul-Chardara transit skips. It is necessary to raise transparency in information and execution.

K. Beyshekeyev backed the need to revise the 1998 Syrdarya Agreement in view of specifying the issues of water quality, information provision, flood prevention and control, economic relations in participation of mid- and downstream states in flow formation and costs of the states of this zone.

On behalf of Minister of Land Reclamation and Water Resources of Tajikistan A. Nazirov, Y. Pulatov make a suggestion to develop an international integrated program for water saving, take economic aspects of water resources use and protection, assess the situation in flow formation zones, especially in part of glacier melting, environmental processes, waterlogging owing to reservoirs.

First Deputy Minister of Water Resources of Turkmenistan T. Altiyevstated that it is necessary to inventory the cost of all operations carried out by the states, where provision of normal river conditions is accompanied by large-scale purification and bank protection measures (the suggestion was seconded by all of the participants). He drew attention to the necessity to strengthen the activities of both BVO “Amudarya” and BVO “Syrdarya”, their status, equipping the head water intakes and hydrometeorological stations, accounting return flows, and monitoring quality.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources of Uzbekistan S. Khamrayev attracted attention to the mechanism for controlling and observing the water limits, as well as fulfilling the decisions of ICWC.

During the discussion, B. Tumurdavaa cast doubt on the expediency of including also the Amudarya river basin in the project area at this stage, and suggested to concentrate the efforts on achieving real results in improving the 1998 Syrdarya Agreement. B. Tumurdavaa also noted that the main factor for efficient work would be the official consent of the Uzbek party to participate in implementing this project.

R. Abdukayumov, specialist in management of ADB projects, expressed opinion on the need for adjusting the specific plans of measures, acceptable to all Central Asian states.

The ICWC members seconded the suggestions on the implementation of the RETA project, emphasized its urgency and timeliness, and expressed their hope that the project would make a significant contribution to strengthening the cooperation among the states in the region. The ICWC members also thanked the ADB for readiness to provide assistance and financial support in settling the problems of effective TWR use in Central Asia. The ICWC members made a suggestion to generalize the results of a range of large projects for TWR use implemented with the support of international donors (Global Environmental Facility, World Bank, United States Agency for International Development, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, TACIS program, SPECA).

The ICWC members noted that in whole, the main problems of TWR management in Central Asia are caused by the contradiction between the interests of the upstream countries (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan), concerned with the operation of large hydro power stations in energy regime and further development of the hydroelectric potential, and downstream countries (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan), concerned with sustainable functioning of irrigation infrastructure and protection of their own territories from floods. Such problems are especially urgent in the Syrdarya river basin.

The ICWC members and other participants in the round table came to an understanding on the following matters:

1. In part of its tasks to develop and improve water policy, first at regional level, the RETA project should cover the issues of both Syrdarya and Amudarya river basins, while assessing present shortcomings and a set of necessary measures by joint efforts of the ICWC members and regional bodies. The actions earlier carried out according to the “Fundamental Provisions of Water Strategy” under the SPECA project, GEF should be taken as basic materials for this activity.

2. Establishing a joint working group to analyze the action practice of the 1998 Syrdarya Agreement, and identify the main causes for fulfilling the provisions of this agreement incompletely is priority. The working group should include representatives from the ministries of foreign affairs, water, energy, environmental agencies in all Central Asian Republics, as well as representatives of regional water and energy authorities (ICWC and its executive bodies, “Energy” Center). It is expected to hold three meetings of this working group during the year 2005.

3. Providing trainings for representatives from water, energy, environmental agencies in Central Asian states in (а) using principles of integrated water resources management; (b) settling conflits and disputes in interstate water use; and (c) improving and harmonizing the water laws in the states of the region. During the year 2005 it is expected to provide three trainings. By the end of May 2005, SIC ICWC will send a plan for organizing, dates and venues of these trainings to the ICWC members for approval.

4. The CWR MA of Kazakhstan and WD MAWRPI of the Kyrgyz Republic should together develop detailed 2005 plans of operation by the end of May 2005 indicating exact implementation dates for the Technical Secretariat and four working subgroups for preparation for operation of the Chui-Talas joint rivers commission, and direct them to the ADB for approval.

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